Her name is Julia. She’s a shy and winsome 4-year-old, with striking red hair and green eyes. Julia likes to paint and pick flowers. When Julia speaks, she often echoes what she’s just heard her friends Abby and Elmo say. Julia has autism.
“There’s so many people that have given her what she is. I’m just hoping to bring her the heart,” says Stacy Gordon, the veteran puppeteer selected to play the part.
“60 Minutes” reporter Lesley Stahl, who joined the episode, spoke to Big Bird and Elmo about helping adjust to how Julia reacts to situations.
“We had to explain to Big Bird that Julia likes Big Bird. It’s just that Julia has autism,” Elmo said. “So sometimes it takes her a little longer to do things.”
As for how Julia was created in the Jim Henson Workshop, Rollie Krewson said they had to build two sets of arms for the Muppet: one for when she’s stationary and one for when she’s upset and flaps her arms.
Stacey Gordon, the voice of Julia, has a son with autism.
“It means that our kids are important enough to be seen in society. Having Julia on the show and seeing all of the characters treat her with compassion…it’s huge,” she told “60 Minutes.”
“Had my son’s friends been exposed to his behaviors through something that they had seen on TV before they experienced them in the classroom, they might not have been frightened. They might not have been worried when he cried. They would have known that he plays in a different way and that that’s okay.”